Memphis' poor housing conditions and eviction crisis existed long before the pandemic.
Mark Fleischer with Storyboard Memphis and High Ground's Emily Trenholm co-hosted a recent podcast on the history and current state of housing in Memphis, as well as the new threats posed by the pandemic and recession and possible solutions to slow the tidal wave of COVID evictions. The guests were Imani Jasper with Neighborhood Preservation Inc. and housing and neighborhood development consultant Austin Harrison.
Click here to listen to the full podcast.
Here are some of our favorite moments from the discussion.AUSTIN HARRISON:
At the neighborhood level we are able to see how many folks are losing their jobs, and where that is happening, much like the virus itself, is especially concentrated in communities of color.
I think if we want our recovery from the growing eviction issue to look the way we want to--where people aren’t negatively impacted down the road by having an eviction problem or they aren't evicted in the first place, where they have access to quality housing and aren’t discounted from it because of marks on a background check--I think we are going to need a much larger effort than what we've seen so far … now it's going to be an even larger number of folks with this “Scarlet E” eviction on their record …
There's so many impacts of Covid-19 that I'm worried about. And one of the things all four of us have talked about is that it took so long for Memphis to come back from the  foreclosure crisis and for some of our neighborhoods to really rebuild. And I'm concerned that the evictions and the economic impacts are going to really diminish their positive trajectory.
… I've had this conversation now quite a few times: the pandemic has really simply exacerbated the issues we've already had these issues, and the pandemic has only made it that much worse for these [vulnerable] communities.
… in Memphis we are looking night and day different from the rest of the state. The majority of our representation comes from the rest of the state where this is a very different issue, so they're not as close to it.
: If there's any dim piece of optimism to find in any of this is that a lot of the organizations I work with and a lot of the partners that I work with have not stopped grinding hard to try and make Memphis better, even in the face of a pandemic … We have a lot of good talents and groups in Memphis that are also working hard to make sure that we don't tumble completely back down the hill.
I would push local governments to give money and include support for nonprofits in future relief bills. And I would also encourage anyone to find nonprofits they believe in that are doing great work, because a lot of them have fallen on hard times, and I think that [their lack of funding] could only exacerbate everything we've talked about.
If you are facing eviction, visit Home901.org and the Covid-19 Resources tab for a assistance. Visit Special Programs at Memphis Area Legal Services for information on rental rights.